In Which My Family Tell Me It’s Better To Be Miserable And Settled Down than Happy And Single…

<Warning- This is a little rambly, a little disjointed, but it’s come more from a stream of consciousness than anything else>

My sister-in-law is going through another one of her phases. The other day, she very kindly pointed out I’ve been single for three years.

Now, I have no problem with being reminded I’ve been single for three years. It’s been a choice, and it’s been a hell of a lot of fun. But sadly, every time a member of my family point out my “long standing single status”, I get looked at as if I have an alien trying to claw it’s way out from between my eyes.

No, luckily the one ally I have in my singledom is my mother. But I’m pretty sure she believes that, should I start dating, I’d make any potential partner’s head explode with talks about raunch culture, the objectification of women, and how patriarchy and capitalism are intertwined… She has faith in me, and it shows. But the rest of my family seem eager to get me married off by the time I’m thirty. Which gives me roughly two and a half years… (P.S. If you’re wondering; no, it doesn’t seem to matter whether I want to get married or not…)

See, my family have never been entirely comfortable with lone parents. Especially not those pesky lone parents who are happy being lone parents. See, the thing is, the patriarchy would rather we believed that a happy ending happens when you meet Prince Charming, and marry him on a crazy whim. YAY! Everyone knows that the Disney Princess idea of love is OH SO ROMANTIC, and not, in anyway, similar to the dynamics of abuse, right?

So, on the whole “settle down with Prince Charming” note, I was left wondering, where were these films where the end result for any female protagonist wasn’t marriage, a big, puffy white dress, and all being well with the world? (Or at least ending up in a relationship with “Mr Perfect” by the end of the film). I could think of two, off the top of my head. (*Please note, I have not included films where the female lead is a child, for obvious reasons.) These were Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland, and my personal favourite, Adrienne Shelley’s Waitress. We have a cinema industry that is over 100 years old, and we’re still being told the ultimate happy ending has to involve Prince Flipping Charming, and preferably the ol’ exchange of vows. The ultimate happy ending for men? Well, you could have saving the world, that big job promotion, “getting the girl” (a misogynistic concept in itself; women are not “girls”, nor are they prizes to be won for being the most likeable man in a film)

Ironically, I’ve always considered Waitress to have the happiest ending of all, but then, y’know… There’s another blog post waiting to come out there.

But the idea a woman can live, outside of men’s involvement in her life, is one that baffles society. But surely, this attitude is one that ensures women are more likely to stay in an unhappy relationship? If we’re told men are essential for our own existence, the idea of life without men becomes terrifying. Intriguingly enough, if we look back to the ol’ Disney Princess clap trap, there’s a recurring theme with the female villains. Every single “witch” is just that… single, and living without the necessity of men in her life. And it comes as no surprise when you consider that, during the witch hunts in Tudor/Stuart led England, the women accused of being “witches” were usually those who were deemed the polar opposite of a “good wife”. (80% of accused “witches” in Suffolk, for example, were women, and the practise of “Witch Hunting”, was women-hating at it’s highest example). A typically accused witch was, during the height of the Witch-trials, a spinster or widow living on her own.

Sadly, it seems that the stigma that’s attached to single women hasn’t been lost quite yet. We keep trying to shake it off, but when single women are no longer represented as “witches” in the films I share with my son, or no longer asked why they’re still single at the ripe old age of 30, then maybe we’ll be a little closer.

Anyway. I’m now off to ask people why they’re married. Just to be slightly awkward. What else, really, would you expect from me?…

“Mirror Mirror” On The Wall, We’ll Keep The Wicked Witch Complex, After All *Spoiler Heavy*

Tarsem Singh’s “Mirror Mirror” (2012) has been hailed as a feminist fairytale by some critics, praising it’s strong, female heroine, Snow White. However, to claim that Singh’s “Mirror Mirror” is a feminist film would be to miss a disturbing undertone throughout the tale; one that tells us giving women power is a dangerous act; one the patriarchy relies on to maintain it’s stability. Singh tells us that, when it comes to power, its “better the devil you know,” whilst spectacularly missing the oppression of the patriarchy.

Singh’s tale begins by telling us of Snow’s childhood. As a child, Snow lived under her father’s reign; one which saw singing, dancing, and general happiness that, for now, there were no ovaries in power. However, the King soon seeks out a wife, known solely throughout the 106 minute feature as “The Queen”. Even as the active narrator, we are sold a dehumanised character, void of a name, and limited to only two qualities which could be deemed anywhere near redeeming; her intelligence, and her beauty. Look, when I said anywhere near redeeming… I meant in the patriarchal sense. After the king is lost in battle, we’re told that the Queendom becomes a destitute and lifeless place; after all, according to the patriarchy, society can not flourish with a woman in power.

The Queen’s personality throughout the film hinges on several narrow factors; The Queen’s fear that one day, she’ll no longer be “the most beautiful woman in the land”, her jealousy of Snow’s beauty (something that factors in The Queen’s decision to have Snow locked in her room from the age of 8, until the age of 18), her lust for Prince Alcott, her deceptive nature, her greed, and her lust for power. In fact, the Queen’s sole traits throughout the film hinge on the seven deadly sins. Even sloth is hinted at, through her unwillingness to actively fix the country’s financial crisis. Yet again, we’re being told that women in power are dangerous, vicious, reckless, and in keeping with the Wicked Witch Complex, imprisoners of (good) women. In a rather dangerous manner, fairy tales tell us that men, on a whole, save women. In Mirror Mirror, Snow is repeatedly saved from The Queen’s clutches by men, even if, at the climax of the film, it’s by default. Men, the patriarchy would have us believe, are our liberators from the women who would otherwise oppress us. Fairy Tale Land, it seems, is an entire reversal of reality, where men routinely oppress women. Oh, and the Magic Mirror? It’s a portal. What was it I said about Wicked Witches?

What is most telling about Snow’s character is that, although, ultimately, it is her who defeats The Queen, she is only able to do so because she is enabled to, by men. When The Queen orders Snow’s death, Snow doesn’t escape due to some cunning plan, but instead, as a result of Brighton’s pity on Snow’s plight. Instead of killing her directly, he instead leaves her to The Beast. Snow manages to run to the dwarves’ hideout, although collapses at the entrance, where, I’m assuming, the dwarves pull her inside. Although Snow develops throughout the film, she only develops through the aide of men; men are consistently seen as a necessity for women’s development, and rarely a hindrance.

There are redeeming features to Singh’s feature, though. He doesn’t make the mistake of providing an inactive heroine; Snow is very much a dominant character throughout the tale, and her resolve continues throughout the film. Singh also provides an amusing commentary on women’s beauty rituals; the Queen’s routine is implied as being self torture. However. a couple of proto-feminist quips does not a feminist film make.

I’m personally waiting on a feminist fairytale. I’ll be waiting a long time, I suspect, but I’m awaiting a fairy tale which tells us of a woman in power, without a male influence, who is deemed a good character. I’m awaiting a self-rescuing, self-improving female protagonist. And I’m waiting for Hollywood to stop telling our children that “Men = Good, Women = Bad”. Preferably in this lifetime, please?